Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I Break Chairs - Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song

I Break Chairs
Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song
Sub Pop  SP 571

This album comes in a paper sleeve.  The front folds out in the shape of a chair.  I had never heard Jurado at the time that I bought it.  I read some good reviews of him, but mostly I bought it because it was on Sub Pop, one of my favorite labels, and because it was cheap.  It turned out to be a good buy.  It opens with the ringing guitar chords of "Paperwings" which is my favorite track.  It is noisy, rocked up roots rock that reminds me a bit of Son Volt.  It is an ambiguous love song.  The hard rock noise continues with the grunge-style "Dancing" which boasts a loud/quiet dynamic and really roars when it gets going.  It dissects a parasitical and unreliable friend.  "Birdcage" is a fast-paced, upbeat tune with a propulsive jangly guitar riff driving home lyrics about escape and recovery.  The record slows down for the cryptic "Inevitable" in which Jurado repeatedly sings "face that inevitable" without revealing what it is.  "Air Show Disaster" was written by Josh Golden, the bassist in Gathered in Song.  It is a laid back, folky song of which I have no idea what it is about.  It is pleasant but forgettable.  Side one concludes with "Never Ending Tide" which describes a woman who will move you like the tide.  It starts slow and quiet before moving into a lengthy instrumental section with more pronounced riffing and guitar workouts before ebbing away.  Side two opens with "Big Deal" which is a return to rocked up roots rock with a kinetic and ebullient sound.  It is a I-told-you-so put down song.  "The Way You Look" continues in a similar musical vein although it sounds more power pop than Americana with its synth riff and poppy beat.  It is a poetic song about envy although Jurado's intentions with the song elude me.  "Castles" is another rocker with a strong vocal from Jurado.  I think it is about indifference and retribution Gathered in Song raises a ruckus behind him in a classic hard rock manner.  "Like Titanic" is more subdued and intricate, I dig the drone that runs through it.  It features the most impressive lyrics on the album as Jurado intimately chronicles an escapist and self-destructive relationship.  He sounds like a neurotic Bruce Springsteen.  The line "you end up breaking hearts like chairs" gives the album its title.  This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.  "Parade" is atmospheric roots rock.  It is short and enigmatic.  The side concludes with "Lose My Head" which has a bit of an alt-country flavor to it although the guitar riff and pounding rhythm are pure rock and roll.  The introspective lyrics are striking and mysterious but Jurado sings them with considerable passion making the song a forceful conclusion to the album.  This album was a pleasant surprise for me.  I love it when I take a chance on a record that I don't know and it turns out to be terrific.  Admittedly the music is a bit generic, but it has a lot of energy and drive.  I never get bored.  Gathered in Song is a solid band and Jurado is an excellent vocalist, even when I have little idea what he is singing about, he sounds convincing.  I'm not a big fan of obscure lyrics, but Jurado is skilled at creating striking imagery so I remain interested in his songs even when I don't get themI also appreciate his consistency of tone and mood, it makes for a cohesive album listening experience.  Recommended to mildly depressed fans of early Wilco.

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